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Post-Devaluation Aeroplan Strategy – Awards, Transfer Partners and Star Alliance Comparison

by on April 9, 2014 · 4 comments

in Aeroplan, Air Canada

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2014 seems to be the year of devaluation what with bad news from Delta and United. Aeroplan was not the first nor last to announce they’d be making changes to their program, including raising business and first class award chart redemptions.

As the changes to Air Canada’s Aeroplan Rewards program took effect earlier this year, I wanted to highlight some of the main award chart changes, so you can be aware of how many miles you will currently need for some specific award ticket redemptions going forward and some strategies for maximizing Aeroplan miles.

Award Ticket Changes

Aeroplan classic one way awards require just 50% of the award miles instead of 67%.

Aeroplan classic one way awards require just 50% of the award miles instead of 67%.

The good news is that one-way Classic Flight Rewards will only cost 50% of the miles that a roundtrip costs. Last year, it was 67%. Another positive change is that Aeroplan miles will no longer expire. Several frequent flyer mile programs have eliminated mileage expiration, so Aeroplan will be right up there with them. Miles will not expire as long as members stay active in the program by having at least one accumulation or redemption activity every 12 months.

Award Chart Increases

The yellow highlights represent the awards that have increased.

The yellow highlights represent the awards that have increased.

The bad news is that some of the business class awards have increased. This increase is on top of  the increase in award redemption levels that Air Canada put in place back in 2011. Luckily, awards within the US and Canada are not increasing, nor are economy class redemptions (at least for now).

A list of the award changes.

A list of the award changes.

Canada/Continental US Business and First awards to Asia 1 have increased by 25,000-35,000. (Asia 1-China, Hong Kong, Japan, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam).

  • Before: 125,000/175,000
  • Now: 150,000/210,000

Canada/Continental US Business and First Class Awards to Asia 2 have increased by 25,000-35,000. (Asia 2-Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mariana Island (Spain), Myanmar, Philippines, Russia (Eastern).

  • Before: 130,000/180,000
  • Now: 155,000/215,000

Canada/Continental US Business and First Class Awards to Middle East/North Africa have increased by 30,000-40,000.

  • Before: 135,000/190,000
  • Now: 165,000/230,000

Canada/Continental US Business and First Class Awards to Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific have increased by 25,000-35,000.

  • Before: 135,000/180,000
  • Now: 160,000/220,000

Don’t forget that Aeroplan adds in some hefty fuel surcharges to certain award redemptions, so be sure to check out my series: In Part 1 of my series, I priced out awards on Air Canada, United, Lufthansa, Brussels Air, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, ANA and South African Airways. In Part 2, I looked at some other popular Star Alliance carriers including: Air China, Asiana, EgyptAir, LOT Polish Airlines, SAS, Swiss, TAM, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines and US Airways (for now). In Part 3 I examined the rest of the 27 Star Alliance partners including: Adria Airways, Aegean, Austrian, Avianca/Taca, Copa Croatia, Shenzhen and TAP, and the final installment: Aeroplan Star Alliance Taxes and Fees Overview Roundup.

Strategy

The way I see it, the two main alternatives to Aeroplan miles for most folks are United miles or ANA miles. That’s because United is the other main North American airline in Star Alliance, and is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold and/or Ink Plus and does not charge fuel surcharges, while ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards if you have a card like the Platinum or Premier Rewards Gold, and does charge fuel surcharges (check out my series on it here).

So here are a couple scenarios and how much you’ll be paying on each in terms of miles and cash.

New York to Paris – Business Class
Aeroplan: 90,000 miles + $60-$900 (depending on partner)
ANA: 68,000 miles + $100-$1,000 depending on partner (United versus Lufthansa, for example)
United: 115,000 miles + $10 on United, 140,000 miles + $200 on partners

San Francisco to Tokyo – Business Class
Aeroplan: 150,000 miles + $70-$600
ANA: 80,000 miles + $70-$700 depending on carrier
United: 130,000 miles + $5 on United, 150,000 miles + $5-$10 on partners

Los Angeles to Sydney – Business Class
Aeroplan: 160,000 miles + $100-$600 depending on partner
ANA: 105,000 miles + $60
United: 140,000 miles + $5 on United, 160,000 + $5 on partners

New York to Johannesburg – Business Class
Aeroplan: 150,000 miles + $120
ANA: 105,000 miles + $600
United: 160,000 miles + 5

So as you can see there are still a few circumstances where using Aeroplan miles – or converting Amex points to Aeroplan miles – still makes more sense than using United miles (especially on partners after the devaluation), or even ANA despite its mostly lower redemption levels. For instance, Aeroplan’s 90,000 miles to Western Europe can still be a good deal depending on the fuel surcharges that price out on the carrier, and you’ll be paying a lot more miles but a lot lower fuel surcharges on that South Africa award.

Comparing Aeroplan to United, you’re pretty much at the same mileage levels now, though you’ll find lower rates on partners thanks to United’s massive partner chart devaluation. That said, Aeroplan does levy fuel surcharges on many partner awards so it’s worth looking into the specific region and carrier you’ll likely fly to price out which is the better choice. If you have a lot of Amex points to burn and not United miles or Chase points to transfer to United, Aeroplan remains a good option for travel on Star Alliance partners.

How have the recent changes affected your own plans to leverage Aeroplan for future awards?

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